17. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Mariah

The Unwanteds: Island of Fire by Lisa McMann, 464 pages, read by Mariah, on 04/13/2015

In book three of this series, the magical world of Artime is gone. It disappeared when its leader, Mr. Today, was killed by Quillians. The Quillians would like to keep Artime destroyed and the Unwanteds enslaved or dead. The book follows several different plot lines. Alex, the new leader of Artime, must somehow figure out how to bring Artime back. The Unwanted who have not deserted to become Quillian slaves (at least they’ll get food and water!), are slowly losing hope. Alex is also struggling with the guilt over his friends who were captured by the Warblerians and have not been rescued yet. However, there is no way to do that until he can reconstruct Artime and bring back the magic. There’s a tension that is continuing to build between him and his twin brother that must eventually clash and be resolved, for better or worse.

McMann finishes some plots arcs, develops others, and starts a few brand new ones that leave some fine cliff-hangers. It’s a fun series. Though the plots involve death and kidnapping, the book keeps everything light enough to be kid-friendly. If you’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series, you’re bound to enjoy this one also. If you have not read the first books, I would suggest reading them first. I’m reading it with my 9 year-old son who has already read the series, but loved it so much he wanted to read it again together.

12. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Prairie Fire by E.K. Johnston, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 04/12/2015

Prairie Fire is the second and final book in the Story of Owen. It picks up a few months after the first book. Siobhan, Owen and Sadie are joining the Oil Watch as planned despite the terrible events they experienced. Owen and Sadie are dragon slayers and Siobhan has joined as Owen’s bard. She is determined to tell his story despite the fact that her hands no longer work as they did before. She can no longer play musical instruments or compose music, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still hear the song around her.

The Oil Watch is not like they expected. Owen and Siobhan angered the Canadian government with their heroics on Manitoulin even though it endeared them to the people. So not everyone is a fan when they arrive at base. There are a lot of politics at play as the conservative government tries to suppress the new style of dragon slaying Owen is advocating. Despite the opposition they settle in to training and their first posting. They meet a lot of other dragon slayers and support staff and learn more about dragon slayer.

Dragon slaying is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach. It is hard work battling giant lizards who breath fire and acid. It is also extremely dangers as our heroes find out.

This is one of those books that when you finish you are crying horribly and throwing the book across the room. Of course, you immediately go lovingly pick it up and flip back through the story to see what you missed. When I started the book I thought it wasn’t nearly as exciting or interesting as the first one. The action is a bit slower as our heroes are going through basic training and their first posting. But that all changes during the final chapters and you are left wondering what the heck just happened to your world.

This is one of the best series I have read in a long while. The thought and detail that went into the world-building is amazing. I would actually like for E.K. Johnston to write a history of the this world as her next book. I was always fascinated by the little snippets of alternative history she provides about this world and Canada in particular. I wouldn’t even mind more books about the dragon slayers of this story just anything to stay in this world.

11. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente, 256 pages, read by Angie, on 04/11/2015

The fourth book in the Fairyland saga takes us away from September and Saturday and introduces a new character to love. Hawthorn is a troll baby who loves being a troll till one day when the Red Wind decides he is going to the human world as a changeling. Hawthorn becomes Thomas and looks human, but never really fits in to the human world. There are too many confusing rules to remember like “smiling is very complicated. Scowling works better but you are not allowed to do it except in private” and “I will understand everything when I am Grown-Up. A Grown-Up is a Person Taller Than Me” and “if something is good, it is off-limits”. Thomas keeps a list of the rules in Inspector Balloon, his notebook, but they don’t always help him navigate the human world. They do help when he starts school and introduces the kids in his class to Inspector Balloon though. He particularly likes Tamburlaine, a girl who doesn’t seem to fit in either. Together they figure out that they are changelings and can do magic, which ends up transporting them back to Fairyland and all kinds of mischief.

Things I learned:

“A Changeling is rough and wild, vaguely unhinged, a bit of ariddle, a bit of an explosive, and altogether maniacal when its fur is stroked the wrong way, which is always!”

“A choice is like a jigsaw puzzle. Your worries are the corner pieces, and your hopes are the edge pieces, and you are the middle pieces, all funny-shaped and stubborn. But the picture, the picture was there all along, just waiting for you to get on with it.”

“If you trample upon the rules you may be ticketed, or executed or elected to high office and given a splendid parade.”

“All children are required to attend School, which is like a party to which everyone forgot to bring punch, or hats, or fiddles, and none of the games have good prizes.”

I adore these books. I think Valente might be one of the most creative authors out there. Her way with words reminds me of Terry Pratchett in a way. A reader could spend a lot of time just pouring over her words and phrases. There is something magical and mystical and funny and ironic about the way she writes. I love all her books and will probably read everything she writes.

11. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Island of Shipwrecks by Lisa McMann, 464 pages, read by Angie, on 04/10/2015

Alex and company have survived falling off the world, but are now stranded on the Island of Shipwrecks. Their ship has been destroyed, but they are able to bring it to the island and scavenge supplies from other wrecks. Unfortunately, they also have to deal with the constant hurricane that hangs over the island. Back on Quill, Aaron is planning yet another attack on Artime, this time with the help of the Quillitary. Alex and the rest of the stranded heroes have no idea what is happening back on Quill or just how dire the situation is about to get. Things progress in unexpected ways and both Alex and Aaron have to deal with situations they never thought possible.

I am really enjoying this series. I do wish the last two books were already out so I didn’t have to wait to find out how things are going to turn out. I feel like this book moved just a bit slower than some of the other books. The time on Shipwreck Island was not as exciting as Pirate Island or the Island of Legends. I am interested to see what happens in the next books as Alex figures out how to battle the new enemy of Gondoleery and save Aaron from the Island of Shipwrecks.

11. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Island of Legends by Lisa McMann, 400 pages, read by Angie, on 04/08/2015

Magic has been restored and Lani and Samheed rescued. Just when the Unwanteds are taking a break, the island is attacked, which leaves them with more problems than before. But that doesn’t stop Alex from going forward with the plans to fulfill his promise to Sky and rescue her mother from the Pirate Island. The journey takes them beyond Warbler and beyond Pirate Island to the last island in the chain. The quest is not without its dangers as they discover both monsters and friends in the sea. Alex is coming to terms with his new power as Mage and trying to deal with his feelings for Sky. Aaron is also exploring his power as he discovers he is more like his brother than previously thought.

This was another exciting edition to the Unwanteds story. I really enjoy exploring all these other islands with our heroes even as I wonder about the sense in leaving Artime without its strongest fighters when danger still lurks in Quill. This book, like most of the previous ones, ends on a cliff-hanger which made me want to grab the next book immediately.

11. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Island of Fire by Lisa McMann, 464 pages, read by Angie, on 04/07/2015

Island of Fire picks up where Island of Silence left off and things do not look good for our heroes. Artime is gone, Mr. Today is dead and the Unwanteds are in desperate straits. They have no food, no water and no magic. They are leaderless and vulnerable to attack from Quill. Alex is now the head mage, but he has no idea how to restore magic or to save his friends on Warbler Island. Mr. Today’s death left him alone and powerless with no idea how to change things. Lani and Samheed have been captured by the silent residents of Warbler. They have been collard into silence and blinded. They  have no idea what is happening on Quill or why Alex has not come to rescue them. All they have is each other and the hope that they will find a way home. Alex becomes more and more isolated as his attempts to save Artime fail. He starts relying on newcomer Sky as a confident. Aaron continues to grow in power and appoints himself High Priest after killing Mr. Today and imprisoning Gunner Haluki.

These books just continue to get better and better. I love that we are now exploring the world outside Artime and meeting people from the other islands. Alex and Aaron are both maturing and dealing with events that most teens their age do not have to deal with. I enjoyed the different ways they reacted to the death of Mr. Today and the destruction of Artime. My one quibble is the fact that both Alex and Aaron are teenagers and have become the leaders of their people. You wouldn’t think adults would be interested in following a young man when there are people with a lot more experience. But of course this is a book for kids so it makes sense that the kids would become the leaders.

11. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Island of Silence by Lisa McMann, 416 pages, read by Angie, on 04/06/2015

The first battle in the war between Artime and Quill has been fought, but the war is far from over. High Priest Justine is dead and the gates of Artime are open for all of Quill. Necessaries flock to the magical world to escape the drudgery of their lives. Artime welcomes the newcomers and allows visits between the two worlds; however, tensions still run high with the Wanteds in power. Aaron has fallen from power, but is determined to climb back up. He starts gathering new allies and preparing to keep the fight with Artime going. The battle with Quill has also made Mr. Today realize he needs to train a successor. He chooses reluctant Alex despite the fact that he is still young and learning. When two strangers wash up on Artime’s shores things get even more complicated. Who are these kids and why do they have iron chokers around there necks and why can’t they speak? Sky and Crow have escaped from another island where they were slaves. Alex, Lani, Meghan and Samheed head to Warbler Island to investigate. Unfortunately things do not go as planned and Alex is forced to choose between his friends in order to escape leaving Lani and Samheed behind. Just as they approach Artime, magic disappears leaving the Artimeans vulnerable to an attack from Quill. The book ends on a desperate cliffhanger that leaves the reader reaching for book three immediately.

The action ramps up in this darker sequel to The Unwanteds. I immediately wanted to start reading the next book as soon as I finished this one (and of course I did). Alex and Aaron are both left to explore their power and figure out how to be leaders. It is interesting how similar and different their paths are. I liked that we got off of Quill and visited another island in this world. The connections between Warbler and Quill are interesting and surprising and left me with additional questions about the creation of Quill. This series is extremely popular and deservedly so. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

10. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie

The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield, 357 pages, read by Leslie, on 03/05/2015

22741088

Eleven-year-old Danny’s parents are storm chasers – which sounds fun and exciting, and it is, so long as you aren’t the son who has to wait behind at home. And one night, after a particularly fierce storm, Danny’s parents don’t come back. Stranger still, the old sycamore tree in Danny’s yard seems to have been struck by lightning, and when he picks up a fragment of wood from the tree’s heart, he finds he can hear voices … including that of next door’s rather uppity cat, Mitzy. The stick is a taro, a shard of lightning that bestows upon its bearer unnerving powers, including the ability to talk with plants and animals – and it is very valuable.

While this book might be entertaining to any kids who read it, I found it rather tiresome. It didn’t grab me and make me want to read it cover to cover in one night, which is the kind of book I tend to gravitate to.  The characters seemed rather dull, the text seemed to move along a path that, while it had a plot line, didn’t really make much sense.  An okay read, but not great.

06. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Carousel Sun by Sharon Lee., 336 pages, read by Kira, on 03/31/2015

3TvEJHOindex   In this 3rd book of the series, Kate is figuring out her relationship with Borgan.  While the townfolk are attempting to persuade the distant owners to expand to  longer season with the local amusement park, the owners are considering selling the property to have condos built on the ocean-side property.  Plus one of the creatures that escaped imprisonment from the magical carousel (in the last book), is looking for her own piece of property to call hers. The middle of the book hits a slow spot, but picks up speed again.  I really hope Ms Lee continues to write in this series.pismo-beach (1)SeaDragondenverzoo.022OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAjantzen_beach_carousel_gray_serpent_2006carousel_nightmare_by_shadowcorvus-d5bqrfh

02. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: and Other Tales by Terry Pratchett, 336 pages, read by Eric, on 03/28/2015

If any good should come from the loss of the legendary Sir Terry Pratchett, an increased interest in his wonderful writing would be best. It’s also fitting to read this collection of stories written during Pratchett’s youth, if only to see the honing of skills which would serve him so well in the decades to come. These are tales intended for young readers, written by a very young author. They may lack some polish, but with few exceptions, they are filled with inventiveness. I particularly enjoyed The Great Speck. Your results may vary.

02. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fantasy, Fiction

The Unwanteds: Island of Silence by Lisa McMann, 406 pages, read by Eric, on 03/21/2015

The second book in the Unwanteds series deals with the aftermath of conflict between Quill and Artime, as life without the magical barrier between them brings twins Alex and Aaron Stone ever closer to a confrontation which will threaten the existence of Artime, and magic itself.

This is a darker novel than the original, with suitably-grave consequences.  Protagonists are put to the test, with a bleak, cliffhanger of an ending. Exploration of a neighboring island opens the world nicely, promising further trials and adventures ahead. I may not have enjoyed it as much as The Unwanteds, but as a setup for things to come, it is effective.

02. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Fiction

Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones, 307 pages, read by Brian, on 04/02/2015

secondCharley Davidson part-time private investigator and full-time Grim reaper with her best friend, Cookie, have another mystery to solve.  Cookie’s friend, Mimi is missing,  Reyes Alexander Farrow, Son of Satan, protecting Charley from demons and whatever else should pop on the way.  Another entertaining book by Darynda Jones.

 

29. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Apollo and the Battle of the Birds by Joan Holub , 128 pages, read by Angie, on 03/28/2015

This is the first book of this series I have read. It is a good beginning chapter book for the kids who want to read Rick Riordan but aren’t quite ready. It is a short adventure story with lots of action and interesting characters. In this book, the Olympians are headed off to fight for the aegis (a shield). The meet Ares along the way and invite him to join their group. Nice introduction to Greek mythology and a fun story.

29. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 212 pages, read by Angie, on 03/27/2015

Princess Cimorene doesn’t want to be a proper princess, she wants to learn to fight with a sword and learn magic and learn to cook and everything else her parents forbid her to do. When they set her up to be married she decides to run away. She heads straight to the dragon caves and volunteers to be a dragon’s princess. Luckily she is accepted by Kazul and they get along wonderfully well. Cimorene starts organizing Kazul’s caves and learns a lot about living with dragons. She learns that not all dragons like princesses or have one and that not all princesses are happy being with dragons. She also has to devise ways to deal with the pesky knights who keep showing up to rescue her. Then she gets involved in dragon politics and has to save the dragons from terrible wizards.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series. It was a great audiobook to listen to. I like my heroines to be a bit on the unusual side and Cimorene definitely fits the bill. She is independent and smart and a role-breaker. I liked the different takes on the role of dragons and princesses and knights. This is a bit older than a lot of the fantasy books popular right now but fits right in with Jessica Day George’s dragon series and others.

26. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones, 310 pages, read by Brian, on 03/19/2015

graveFirst Grave on the Right is about Death.  I mean the person who sees dead people and takes them to there rightful place after they die.  Charley Davidson, is such Death, a grim reaper if you will, who moonlights as a private investigator. She is kind of lazy, smart-ass, and a heart of gold as she solves the murders of the recently deceased.

 

26. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison, 439 pages, read by Brian, on 03/18/2015

paleKim Harrison is a wonderful writer, her books are interesting, funny and suspenseful, Pale Demon is no different.  Rachel Morgan is condemned by the witches society for using black magic.  She has three days to travel across country to prove her innocence and not be sent to the demons.  Travelling with a vampire, elf, pixie and other assorted creatures trying to kill her, this shouldn’t be a problem at all.  Should it?

 

23. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 333 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/04/2015

station eleven  This novel set in the future explores what life would be like for the survivors of a world-wide pandemic. Part of the story takes place in the characters past when the illness was just starting, part takes place in their current time and other sections take place in the characters memories of their own past. This may sound confusing but the writing and the way the chapters are organized makes the story flow smoothly. The survivors past lives interconnect in an interesting way and the inclusion of a story within the story set in a graphic novel is unique as well. The novel explores the different ways people react to the same circumstances and how their decisions affect all those around them.

23. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Carousel Sun by Sharon Lee, 336 pages, read by Kira, on 03/22/2015

Cover-Carousel-SunThe second book in the Carousel saga.  Though the stakes aren’t as high as in the last novel, I still found this a very enjoyable read.  2270482292_d35dac85e7_z 'Swamp Dweller' merman painting, Jade GengcoKate’s bad neighbor is still running drugs, and seems to have found another Ozali to help him evade the police.  One of the things I like about Sharon Lee’s writing is that she doesn’t spell things out for you, you have to figure things out on your own.  I finally  Scenics_coastal_waters_and_landmassrealized what had become of the bat-winged horse – though the clues had all been there in the previous book.  I also love the way Kate needs to assert herself, if she wants things to develop between her and Borgan.  I’m waiting to see what happens to the other escaped carousel animals in her next book – Carousel Seas.SeaWitch4  Lee also manages to capture the magic of riding a carousel.dragon_0011d39076ffdcd3feb85e89ebbab63c5c7Wild-Cats-Carousel-947741Carousel-4

22. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Mariah, Mystery

Small Favor by Jim Butcher, 423 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/22/2015

I am already a fan of Jim Butcher’s writing, and Small Favor is one of the even better stories. The wizard for hire, Harry Dresden, is caught up in a fast-paced adventure from the very first pages. Fae from the court of the Summer Queen begin attacking Harry while he is training his apprentice. Though it is unclear why Summer Fae are after his blood, Harry has upset enough of the Summer royalty to make some pretty good guesses. The Winter Queen appears to be helping the harassed wizard, but her help comes unsolicited and at a very high price. This is all a sideline to the main plot and problem of the tale. Fallen angels, known as Denarians, have come up with a plan that may make it possible for them to bring about the destruction of the world. By kidnapping a little girl known as the Archive, who is receptacle of all written knowledge, the Denarians would be able to wreak massive damage. Harry Dresden must evade the wrath of the Summer Court, neutralize the “help” of the Winter Court, and fight a handful of fallen angels with god-like powers.

Small Favor is book #10 in the series the Dresden Files. Each book in this series has its own plot arc and resolves by the end. However, the characters are well written, well developed, and return in most books. The familiar characters and plot elements which cause character growth make it more enjoyable to read the books in order. I would recommend the Dresden Files to any fantasy reader. Butcher uses tried and true fantasy creatures and adds in new ideas, also. He also has a nice mesh of fantasy and modern crime, since the main character works as a detective specializing in missing items. I would caution, though, that the first book has a very slow start. The series is worthwhile if given a chance.

21. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Mariah, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense

Doll Bones by Holly Black, 244 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/19/2015

Three friends, Zack, Alice, and Poppy, play an imaginary game that seems to have all the best elements of fantasy. Making their own rules and using action figures, they write adventures that span weeks, months, and years. However, when Zack’s fathers decides Zack is too old for games with girls and dolls, everything changes. Zack is so angry and hurt that he handles the matter by refusing to deal with it. He tells Alice and Poppy that he no longer wishes to play their pretend epics and shuts himself off. The girls are hurt and bewildered. Then, late one night, Poppy and Alice show up at Zack’s window. Poppy has been suffering from evil dreams in which one of the dolls visits her. The doll, known as the Queen, claims she was made from the bones of a murdered child, and she will not leave them in peace until they bury her body in the proper place. Not knowing whether they really believe, the children set off on a dangerous adventure.

Children’s horror is not an overly populated genre, but Holly Black enters it with style and skill. The tale picks up quickly and keeps pace throughout the book. Revelations regarding the nature of the children’s changing relationships are woven seamlessly throughout the drama of being terrorized by a ghost. Dealing with the changes of life and maturity can be almost as frightening as supernatural events. In the end, the book was never too scary, too ridiculous, or too boring. I would recommend it to an older child, probably around middle school, who enjoys horror.